Sonoma, CA. July 26, 2003. With an assist by lapped traffic, Luis Schiavo was able to manufacture a last lap pass over Moses Smith in turn seven to claim his second victory of the season in the Star Mazda Series North American Championship today...
Sonoma, CA. July 26, 2003. With an assist by lapped traffic, Luis Schiavo was able to manufacture a last lap pass over Moses Smith in turn seven to claim his second victory of the season in the Star Mazda Series North American Championship today at Infineon Raceway. Piloting the #46 Racers Edge Motorsports Color 99.5 FM Maraclinic Import Mazda, Schiavo was surprised to have the opportunity to claim the top spot on the podium.
"I had been saving my tires in the middle of the race and had started catching back up to Moses towards the end when we came up on a slower car on the final lap," explained the Caracas, Venezuela native. "I didn't think I would have a chance to get around him but he decided to go around on the outside of the traffic in turn seven and I took the inside line and was able to get past both of them."
Coming home in second place after a dominating performance throughout the race was Team Tomlin driver Smith, who saw his chances for his second consecutive victory slip away in turn seven. "The Team Tomlin HASA Pool Products car was unreal today and we just had a bit of bad luck with the traffic at the end," Smith said. "I would've liked to have the victory but we scored some points and the crew is giving me an excellent car everywhere we go."
Finishing third for the second consecutive appearance at Infineon Raceway was championship points leader Michael McDowell in the Star Race Cars MMI Karting Western Titanium Mega Metals Sparco Mazda who worked his way up from sixth place to third place on the opening lap and then held on for the remainder of the 18 lap event. "I was able to make a great start and pick up some spots and have to thank my engineer Sean Mellick and all the guys at Star Race Cars for working so hard to keep us at the front of the field and the top of the points battle."
Shaking off a string of bad luck, Michael Potekhen displayed his front-running form as he set fast lap of the race in his Eurosports Racing Blue Valley Ski Rentals Mazda. "Despite the bad luck we've had the past few races the team has kept fighting and working to get us to the front and now it seems like our fortunes are turning," a relived Potekhen said. "The car was working great despite the slippery conditions out there because of the heat and the different rubber combinations laid down by the other groups and we're looking forward to the rest of the season."
With temperatures reaching into the nineties, the track conditions were less than ideal for the drivers and several challengers were caught by the conditions.
Polesitter Jamie Bach, who had topped the time sheets for Friday as well as qualifying in his BK Motorsports Dell R-Sport Mazda, ran afoul of the conditions near the halfway point of the race while battling for position and would finish eleventh overall. "The track had changed and there was just a single line through the carousel and I just went a bit wide and got out into the marbles and looped the car," Bach explained. "The car had been great all weekend it just got progressively looser as the race continued. This was our first race here at Infineon and I really like the track I just wish I could've had a better result."
On his way to a fifth place finish Bach's BK Motorsports teammate Tom Nastasi would battle the tough track and a high-speed off-road adventure through Infineon Raceway's famous esses for a hard earned finish. "I was coming out of 8A and the car got a little loose and I went off through the dirt towards turn nine," Nastasi recounted. "I can attest after that that these cars could do really well in a rally. I was able to recover from that mishap and have to thank Ron Roland and the crew at BK Motorsports for giving me the best car I've ever had. Ron really knows how to get the cars working."
The gutsy drive of the race would have to belong to Mike Anderson in the DARE HASA Racing Mazda. Anderson, battling early in the race with Brian Thienes in the Teco Racing Thienes Engineering Mazda, made contact with Thienes in a passing attempt in turn eleven, damaging his left front suspension. Despite the handling difficulties caused by the impact Anderson stayed in the battle and held on for a seventh place finish behind Thienes. A post race inspection would reveal that he had run the majority of the race with a cracked upright.
"Brian and I were going at it out there and we just ran out of room," Anderson explained. "I knew there was some damage because the toe had changed on the car and I spent the rest of the race with steering wheel turned at a forty-five degree angle as I went down the straights. After looking at the left front corner I am happy that I was able to finish seventh here as we enter the second half of the season."
With four races remaining in the 2003 Star Mazda Series North American Championship the points battle has heated up once again with Schiavo and McDowell now sharing the points lead with 184 points each.
Round Six of the championship will be held north of the border at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada on August 13-16.
For more information about the Star Mazda Series please contact Gary Rodrigues at (818) 686-3355 or visit www.starmazda.com.